Just Saying Thanks
As Clark Kent (Superman) heads back to Smallville to spend time with family, his Thanksgiving celebration is interrupted by the appearance of an old foe — Lex Luthor. But what does this vile villain have planned for the day of giving thanks?
“Finally, we’re here!” Kristin Wells said as she stepped off the train, carrying the sleeping form of little Jasma on her shoulder. “Such a slow way to travel!”
“I know it’s not as quick as we’re used to,” said her fiancé Clark Kent as he struggled down the wooden steps carrying the luggage — and making a show of having trouble lifting the heavy weights. “But we have to keep up appearances.”
Kristin breathed deeply, inhaling the clean, cool air of the Smallville night. “The holovids don’t do this place justice,” she said, drinking in the ambience of the town where the man she loved had grown up, had in fact become the man she loved.
Clark watched his fiancée’s expression and smiled with his own inner warmth. He had a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving Day. He had thought his best friend dead, but had just learned that he was, in fact, alive. (*) And, most importantly, he had a bright future with Kristin and Jasma to look forward to.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Batman: The Return.]
“My cousins will be meeting us for Thanksgiving dinner,” Clark reminded her. “And, of course, they don’t know about our… extra-vocational activities.”
“I know, I know,” Kristin said. “I’ve been practicing the whole secret identity bit for a while now, you know. I think I can fool them.” She added, somewhat less confidently, “I just hope they like me.”
“How can they not?” Clark asked reassuringly. “I love you, and that’ll be good enough for them. The Kents are like that.”
Kristin rewarded him with a warm smile. “Don’t I know it.”
Clark opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again. What was that sound in the distance? He squinted his eyes, focusing his super-vision. “Great Scott!” he exclaimed under his breath.
“What is it?” Kristin asked, suddenly alert.
“Hopefully nothing,” Clark said, but his tone betrayed his doubt at that. “Stay with Jasma — I’ll be back!”
“Clark–” Kristin began, but faster than even she could see, he was gone. She stamped her foot in irritation. Stay with Jasma, indeed! Who did he think she was?
Deep in his hidden lair, the world’s most brilliant man twisted dials, typed in coordinates, made lightning-quick mental calculations. He would get this right. He had to get this right. His entire plan depended on it. Satisfied that everything was correct, he settled back in his chair, steepled his fingertips, and waited.
The blue-and-scarlet-garbed form of Superman streaked through the Smallville sky, faster than the human eye could follow. He knew that wavelength pattern — the teleportation beam invented by Luthor, his oldest and deadliest enemy. Briefly, the man of tomorrow shook his head at the impertinence of some people, carrying on business as usual even on a day like Thanksgiving. He didn’t know what Luthor was planning, but he would halt it, whatever it was.
Lex Luthor watched the readout screen like a hawk, searching for any sign of interference. He expected it, but that was why he was successful; he expected everything.
There it was. That blip on his ultra-microwave radar could only be caused by something dense enough to stop the UM waves — namely a Kryptonian body.
“Oh, no, you don’t,” Luthor said to the blip as his finger moved forward to stab a button.
Superman quickly closed in on the teleportation beam. He took a moment to wonder when he saw where it was headed. Why that building of all places? He then zoomed in to intercept it.
Suddenly, the beam, invisible to all eyes but his own, flashed a brilliant scarlet. Superman felt himself thrown out of his trajectory, carried forward by sheer momentum. This was something new. Luthor had laced his teleportation beam with red solar energy — the specific kind of energy that could immediately drain him of the yellow solar energy that gave him most of his super-powers. Superman was momentarily robbed of his powers and was hurtling headlong to the very solid ground.
“Madge,” a middle-aged woman in a white uniform called out, “we’re out of Jell-O.”
“So use tapioca pudding,” Madge replied, stacking plastic trays of turkey roll and canned green beans onto a pushcart. She sighed at the meager fare they had for their charges on this of all nights. But Reaganomics had hit hard, and there was no money in the budget for a proper Thanksgiving dinner.
“Madge!” the other woman’s voice cried out in shock and astonishment.
“What?” her colleague asked, turning on her heel. She gasped audibly, both hands flying to her mouth.
Two dozen whole turkeys, freshly roasted and steaming, stood on a wooden table in the center of the kitchen. The turkeys were surrounded by hot steaming bowls of cornbread stuffing, cranberry sauce, and fresh vegetables — all the traditional fixings.
“Madge,” the first woman said in a hushed voice, “that wasn’t there before.”
“No, Barb,” Madge agreed. “It wasn’t.”
There was silence for a moment.
“What should we do?” Barb asked.
Madge looked at the pitiful trays of turkey roll and Jell-O, then back to the sumptuous feast miraculously given them.
“Get busy serving it,” she decided.
Mere inches from the blacktopped parking lot of the Smallville Convalescent Home, Superman’s powers returned, and he pulled out of his power-dive. The teleportation beam was gone, but it had done its work, whatever it was. Superman trained his x-ray vision on the building, trying to discover Luthor’s sinister purpose.
“Great Krypton!” Superman exclaimed, seeing the Thanksgiving feast that had materialized in the nursing home kitchen. What in the world was Luthor up to?
“Surprised, Superman?” A familiar voice behind the man of tomorrow said with a sneer, causing Superman to reflexively jump. “You don’t have a monopoly on the Boy Scout bit, you know.”
Superman turned his head to see Luthor, in his purple and green battle garb, hovering in the night sky behind him. Superman tensed his muscles, preparing for battle, when Luthor said, “Relax, this is a holographic projection. I don’t want a battle tonight.”
Superman hovered in the air, watching the projection of his oldest enemy, once his friend. “But why–?”
“Follow me,” Luthor said, and glided through the air to one of the windows of the nursing home. Puzzled, Superman followed. Luthor’s projection pointed at the window. “Look familiar?“
Superman looked inside the sparsely furnished room at the elderly woman lying in the bed. She did look familiar. The man of tomorrow scanned his super-memory and found the image. The last time he had seen that face, it had not been quite so old, but he still recognized it.
“Mrs. McGreevy,” he said.
“The Smallville librarian,” Luthor acknowledged. “The only one who was ever kind to me. The library was my home, moreso than my parents’ house. I spent hours there. Mrs. McGreevy was always friendly to me, although she did encourage me to try to get out more, make friends outside of books. Well, you know how that turned out. But she never gave up on me. Even after you and I had our little–” Luthor chuckled as his hand strayed to his bald head. “–falling out, she didn’t give up on me. Came to see me in the reformatory, even. Brought me books — the latest Asimov. Nobody else ever came to see me, not even my parents.”
“I did,” Superman reminded him.
“Yeah, well, you don’t count,” Luthor said dismissively. “When I learned she’d ended up here, with no family and no visitors, well, I had to do something. I figured I owed her that much.”
Superman was moved. Every now and then, he caught a glimpse of the old Lex Luthor, the one buried by all the hatred and lust for revenge, the one he hoped he could someday bring back to the surface. “Lex…” he began.
“Look, don’t get all mushy just because I did a good turn for someone who once did one for me, OK?” Luthor snarled. “I’m not changing my stripes or anything like that, so don’t get any funny ideas! I was just — just–“
“Saying thanks?” Superman offered.
A small smile crossed Luthor’s face. “Yeah. Just saying thanks.” There was a silent pause before he added, “We’ll fight another day, Superman. Count on it. But for now — well, just enjoy your turkey dinner. It may be your last.” And in an eye-blink, the holographic projection was gone.
Superman stared inside the nursing home, where the busy staff was preparing to serve the feast Luthor had provided for them.
“Happy Thanksgiving,” he said to everyone and no one in particular.